It was bad enough for the Dodgers that Russell Martin tore his labrum in his right hip last week, effectively ending his season. It gets even worse when the realization hits that his Dodger career just might be over. Martin will be remembered as the latest in a long line of very good Dodger catchers, but fans also can't help but think what might have been.
Martin became a fan favorite, and a productive player, almost from the very moment he came to the big leagues. He played seemingly every day, and made two All-Star games in his first three seasons. However, since the 2008 All-Star break, Martin simply hasn't been the same player.
|Before 2008 All-Star break
|After 2008 All-Star break
Martin had a legitimate claim to the title of best catcher in the National League in mid-2008, or in the very least was in the discussion with Brian McCann. Given Joe Mauer's injury history, it wasn't even a stretch to consider Martin at or near the top of the list of best catchers in all of baseball. However, that seems so far away now.
Martin simply doesn't hit for power any more. He has a Jason Kendall-like .331 slugging percentage over the last two-plus seasons, a sharp decline from earlier in his career. He is still a reasonably valuable player; after all, catchers with .350 on-base percentages don't grow on trees. However, he is also making $5.05 million this season, in the second of four arbitration-eligible seasons for Martin. If he goes to arbitration again, Martin will get another raise, just because just about everyone gets a raise in arbitration.
Because Martin is a candidate to make over $6 million in arbitration next season, he's a prime candidate to get non-tendered this offseason. Unless he and the team can agree to some sort of reduced contract -- perhaps a two-year deal -- Martin may have already played his final game as a Dodger. That said, let's look back at Martin's five greatest games as a Dodger:
Martin entered the game in the fifth inning, and ended up catching ten innings, making several good defensive plays, including a nice block of the plate to keep the winning run from scoring in the 11th inning.
Down 9-5 in the ninth inning, the Dodgers hit a record-tying four straight home runs to tie the Padres. The first two were hit off Jon Adkins, and things looked bleak for the Dodgers when closer Trevor Hoffman came in to shut the door. However, the rookie Martin rudely greeted Hoffman with a first-pitch home run over the left field wall, and Marlon Anderson followed with another, in a game the Dodgers would win in 10 innings.
Martin helped the Dodgers win their first playoff series in 20 years with two doubles in the third and final game against the Cubs. Martin scored after doubling in the first inning, then drove in the Dodgers' final run with an RBI two-bagger in the fifth inning.
In a wonderful pitching duel between Greg Maddux of the Dodgers and Jason Schmidt of the Giants, Martin sent everyone home happy with a solo home run off Vinnie Chulk to give the Dodgers a 1-0 win.
Martin reached base in each of his first six plate appearances, with three singles, a double, and two walks against the Rockies. Martin had a chance to set a new LA Dodger record for times on base in a game in the 13th inning, but he settled for the game-winning sacrifice fly